So how are you feeling these days? Delighted with the election results? Reassured by our bold new leadership? Confident about the future?
Many people are. Others, not so much.
Whether you’re feeling exuberant or terrified (or something in between), here’s how you can work to create a more positive, more productive and less anxious workplace (and world).
Start not with action, but with values and vision.
Borrowing from the YMCA’s statement of core values (as I did in a previous column), I would identify eight values as my motivating beliefs: respect, responsibility, honesty and caring, compassion, forgiveness, generosity and kindness. My actions may fall short, but these values are my guiding principles. (One could argue they also are fundamental to a functioning democracy.)
What are your values? Do other people share them?
I’m guessing that more than 90 percent of the people reading this column, regardless of religious affiliation or non-affiliation, share mine (or at least pay lip service to them).
If so, a 90 percent mandate seems like a good starting place for talking about differences, resolving conflicts, solving problems, making decisions and determining policy.
Next you need a strategy — a strategy not in the sense of a scheme for converting people to think or vote or worship as you do (in other words, to be more like you), but a strategy for reconciling differences in search of common ground. The strategy I recommend is Rogerian argument (that is “argument” in the classical sense), after the psychologist Carl Rogers. Because Rogerian argument is non-oppositional in tone and approach, however, I prefer to call it Rogerian persuasion.
In contrast to classical win/lose argumentation, Rogerian persuasion seeks not to defeat an opponent (as in an election), but to promote openness to opposing points of view, acceptance of new ways of thinking and formulation of mutually beneficial outcomes. (The latter objective can be described as finding win/win solutions or, more crudely, as responding to “What’s in it for me?”)
Non-oppositional Rogerian persuasion seems especially relevant during times of conflict and change — like now, for instance.
Carl Rogers recognized that change was inevitable. He also believed that it was inherently unpredictable. And as we all know, whether predictable or unpredictable, change can be stressful.
According to Saul McLeod on his SimplyPsychology website, Rogers believed that for people to “grow” they need “an environment that provides them with genuineness (openness and self-disclosure), acceptance (being seen with unconditional positive regard) and empathy (being listened to and understood).”
So how do you convey genuineness, acceptance and empathy to that clueless jerk in your workplace/neighborhood/family who voted for Trump/Clinton/Stein/Johnson?
Well, you don’t abandon your values, even as you act in compromise for a greater good. You offer empathy (“I understand your anger”), affirmation (“Anyone would be angry over losing their job”) and validation (“It’s true that some Muslims are terrorists”), and then — and only then — do you offer your own point of view.
You may not change any minds, but if you are truly listening, people whose views differ from yours may be more likely to listen to you.
Stephen Wilbers offers training seminars in effective business writing. E-mail him at email@example.com. His website is www.wilbers.com.